Monthly Archives: August, 2018

22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B

1st Reading: Deuteronomy 4: 1-2, 6-8

The purpose of keeping the Law is not a matter of blind obedience (obedience entails listening that is suppose to give ‘sight’—insight). It is about growing closer to the God of love and liberation who has first come close to us. (Reginald Fuller, http://liturgy.slu.edu )

An Overview of the Book of Deuteronomy:  This book is written in the form of an address by Moses to his people just before they were to enter the Promised Land. It is written as if it was Moses’ farewell address. It contains many long sermons and speeches that echo a much later reflection on the law and covenant than would have been possible at the time of Moses. (This kind of pseudonymous writing was a common ancient practice of authors; they hoped that the name of the respected leader would bring authority to their material.) The name, Deuteronomy, even means a second law – it is not really a second law, but a second look at the law given in Exodus by God through Moses. The writer was calling for reform and rededication. It is used here today, probably because Jesus is seen as the new Moses in the gospel, the One who teaches with God’s authority and wisdom. (Mary Birmingham, Word and Worship Workbook, Cycle B, 467-468)

2nd Reading: James 1: 17-18, 21-22, 27

Though it is unmistakably Christian, this book has a very Jewish feel to it.  There are a lot of do’s and don’ts, like a guidebook down the path of life. There is still debate among theologians who wrote this epistle.  It is most widely attributed to Jesus’ “brother” James, who became the leader of the church in Jerusalem – James the Just, not the apostle, (Powell, Intro. the New Testament, p. 445-450).  We don’t even know when it was written, whether 60s or perhaps later in the 80s & 90s.  Despite the reflection of Jewish Christian traditions, the writing itself suggests a Greek-speaking Jewish community because of its elegance (Perkins, Reading the New Testament, p. 297).

This ‘sermon’ addressed to the 12 tribes of the Diaspora (which refers to the dispersion of the Jews from Palestine after the Babylonian captivity and/or the Jewish communities living outside Palestine). It is asking them to translate their faith into good deeds. The vertical bond with God must also be expressed with horizontal sharing and caring about those in need. To be truly Christian is to act on what we hear, welcoming God’s word into our hearts, minds, and will. (Celebration, Sept.3, 2006)

The Gospel: Mark 7: 1-8, 14-15, 21-22

What good news do you find in this gospel?

How is Christ speaking personally to you in this passage?

From John Pilch, The Cultural World of Jesus, Cycle B, 130 -132:  The ‘tradition of the elders’ was a set of practices that were defined, maintained, and practiced by elites who lived in the city. The Pharisees wanted everyone to observe this urban tradition. Peasants in the countryside or itinerants like Jesus would have great difficulty observing such traditions. Water was scarce and/or not readily available for such washings. Fishermen and other peasants regularly came into contact with dead fish, dead animals, and other ‘pollutants.’ Peasants had therefore developed the ‘little tradition’ which adapted the requirements of the ‘great tradition’ of the urban and more well-to-do people. Jesus, the artisan (carpenter), obviously sided with this little tradition; he knew first hand the realities and difficulties of peasant life.

What we ‘see’ in this gospel is the challenge and retort that was common in Jesus’ day. Questions were rarely inoffensive; every question was a challenge. There was always the hope that the one being questioned would not know the answer. Therefore, they could be shamed. The word, hypocrite, meant actor. In other words, Jesus was saying: “You actors! Scripture may be the lines you quote, but it is not the script by which you live.” It was considered particularly ‘honorable’ to be able to draw creatively and insightfully upon tradition or scripture in the heat of an argument. Some of us Americans are a bit dismayed by Jesus’ ability to confront and insult rather than using tact and diplomacy. Yet, what we see here was how a male would have to respond to ‘make a point’ and maintain his honor. Jesus also changes the topic (another clever refuting skill) by using a parable to teach about what really defiles a person. It is not what one eats that defiles, but what ‘comes out’ of a person that defiles.

This gospel is also about table fellowshipwho should be welcomed at ‘God’s table’ . . . The ‘unwashed hands’ are not only the hands of peasants, but in Mark’s early Christian community they would also have been the hands of Gentiles.  Mark is making an important point that Jesus does NOT exclude from table-fellowship those who do not keep all the purity laws. Jesus’ offer of salvation was not only to the ‘clean’ of Israel, but also to the unclean. He invited sinners and tax collectors to join him at table – and to feed on his word. He still does! It is interesting to think about this during our procession to and from Communion. It is itself symbolic of what is taking place: all of us, the able and the lame, the ready and the not-so-ready, the healed and those in need of healing. We all walk together to Christ’s table.         (Living Liturgy, 2003, p. 202)

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Eucharist Part 4

The 4th and final of Fr. Bob’s homily series on Eucharist…

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20th Sunday in Ordinary Time B
This is the fourth part of my homily series on the Eucharist. The Bread of Life discourse continues for a fifth week, but my reflection next week will be restricted to going to mass and playing golf in Canada. What is left is to ask why the Eucharist so powerful that it can fill our hungers.
I started listing to the cast recording of the musical “Hamilton” and as tends to happen with “Hamilton,” I have become a little obsessed. And there is no better song than “Satisfied” which details the thought that Alexander Hamilton would never achieve satisfaction and it serves as a sub-theme throughout the musical. For all his endeavors, his writing, his success and his astounding career, there was never a moment when he knew contentment. But that is not unique to him. It is really the human condition. We have…

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21st Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B


1st Reading:  Joshua 24:  1-2, 15-17, 18

From Birmingham’s Word and Worship, p. 617:  This small, ragtag military band of Israelites accomplished great victories only because they were sustained and empowered by the Holy One of Israel.  Israel laid claim to all of the land because God was the one who helped them secure it in the first place.  Salvation history exalts the God who strengthened Israel in all its endeavors – deliverance from slavery and conquest of the Canaanite land.  But the inhabitants of Shechem worshiped a god called El-berith.  The Israelites worshiped Yahweh.  The covenant agreement reached by both groups was to worship the one God, Yahweh.  The liturgy in this passage remembers and celebrates the agreement made by the two groups of people.

What is it to serve the Lord and claim God as your own?  This is deeper than simply professing a belief.  As we will see in the Gospel reading, it is a transformation that some simply cannot accept.  Not only do we have to choose but we must continue choosing…daily!

2nd Reading:  Ephesians 5:  21-32

The Greek root of the word subordinate can be ‘to obey’, or ‘to listen’.  Doesn’t that change how we look at Paul’s letter?  We must listen to one another, in our marriages and in our church.  Notice Paul speaks to the husbands about their responsibilities too, to love their wives.  And also note that church is not formally formed yet; he is talking to communities of people bonded in faith.

From Barclay’s Daily Study Bible Series, p. 168-174:  This reading must be put in context.  The Jews has a low view of women at the time.  In his morning prayer there was a sentence in which a Jewish man gave thanks that God had not made him “a Gentile, a slave or a woman.”  In Jewish law a woman was not a person, but a thing.  She had no legal rights whatsoever; she was absolutely her husband’s possession to do with as he willed.  And in Paul’s day, divorce was very easy.  All a man had to do was to hand a bill of divorcement, correctly written out by a Rabbi, to his wife in the presence of 2 witnesses and the divorce was complete.  The only other condition was that the woman’s dowry must be returned.  A woman really had no rights to divorce her husband at all.  So for Paul to talk about the relationship between husband and wife as being sacrificial, purifying, caring, unbreakable…this was a new idea.  And this is carried over into church life.

There is an ancient proverb, “It is in the shelter of each other that people live.”  How do we do that in our marriages?  In our parish?

John 6:  60-69

We come to the end of Jesus’ Bread of Life Discourse, but it is with unrest.  Murmuring, unacceptance, returning to former ways of life…the disciples are in a similar place as we are now in our Church!  With more sexual abuse allegations come to light, the priest shortage and dwindling congregations, we are also a murmuring people who needs consolation.  Thankfully Jesus tells us the words we need to hear, those of Spirit and life.  Peter affirms his belief in Jesus being the Holy One of God, and yet he denies him later.  We are hard to convince.  Roland Faley shares, “Faith is attained not by human effort, even though cooperation is essential, but by the action of God drawing the believer.”  We must be open to God drawing us in.  Perhaps we get in the way of God’s action when we try so hard?  Consider the murmurings you have with God in your own life.

From Barclay’s Daily Study Bible Series, p. 227:  The disciples were well aware that Jesus had claimed to be the very life and mind of God come down to earth; their difficulty was to accept that as true, with all its implications….If we eat simply for the sake of eating, we become gluttons, and it is likely to do us far more harm than good; if we eat to sustain life, to do our work better, to maintain the fitness of our body at its highest peak, food has a real significance…The things of the flesh all gain their value from the spirit in which they are done.

Applying this to Eucharist, it makes all the difference.  Are we willing to let Eucharist change us, to bring meaning to our life, and to allow Spirit to flow?  Can we live so we convince others we are of God too?

On the Recent Scandals

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This was a tough week to be a priest and a tough week to be a Catholic with the repercussions of the McCarrick scandal and the Pennsylvania Grand Jury report. And I hate it when it is a tough week to be a priest because I love what I do and I am sure that you hate it when it is a tough week to be a Catholic because you love your faith. But we need to look at stark reality.
As for the situation in Pennsylvania, for me it was both expected and shocking. As someone who has lived with this for such a long time, the numbers as horrifying as they are seem to be comparable to most dioceses, ours included based on the priests who have been removed listed on our website. And it is gratifying that things have improved since the implementation of “Charter for Protection…

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Eucharist: Part 3

Fr. Bob’s 3rd in his Eucharist homily series…

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19th Sunday in Ordinary Time B
For the third part of our series on the Eucharist, let us look for see how Eucharist fills our need for justice and is at the goal of our never ending search for joy. But first let’s define these terms.
We all feel the need for justice in our lives. When we are wronged, we want it made right; when we are left out, we want to be included. And knowing we are one body, that sense of justice develops into social justice and is extended to all who are not treated fairly, whose dignity is impugned. Joy of course is that sense that is beyond and greater than happiness which we all know is fleeting. It is a sense of well-being and love that persists despite the circumstances that affect us. In Eucharist, we can have our fill of both.
To delve deeper…

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20th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B

1st Reading: Proverbs 9: 1-6

The Book of Proverbs dates back to 3000 BC, and so it is possible that the sayings could have been gathered together during Solomon’s time and put into one collection.  Solomon was believed to have written most of Proverbs as well as The Song of Solomon, Ecclesiastes and the book of Wisdom  (Birmingham, Word & Worship, p. 607).

 

Today’s pericope (a select text) is a contrast between the personification of Folly and Wisdom.  Folly is trying to coax passersby with “junk food” that will only hurt them in the end.  Wisdom provides more nourishment at her table.  Wisdom offers life…it is up to us to choose.  Doesn’t this sound like an easy choice?  We should eat from Wisdom’s table, right?  But so often we don’t!  What prevents us?  How do we choose the life-giving nourishment that God provides us?  Wisdom is preparing us for the bread and wine of Christ that will always sustain us.

 

The Hebrew meaning behind the word “simple” is open-minded.  How does this change your understanding of the passage?  It frees us from the duality of wise vs. simple.  What does it mean to be wise?

 

2nd Reading: Ephesians 5: 15-20

What does the writer of Ephesians mean by calling his day ‘evil’? He probably meant that the time was out of step with truth – that it had encouraged a spirit of immorality (behavior that destroys community and treats individuals as objects) – that much of what was seen as ‘good’ was really toxic. True wisdom will lead to a life that is filled with goodness for us and for all others.  (Celebration, August 2006)  What will “watch carefully how you live” help us with?  How do we “sing and play to the Lord in our hearts”?

 

The Gospel: John 6: 51-58

\The language Jesus uses to describe this food – his very own flesh and blood – is reminiscent of sacrificial language with which the crowd would have been familiar. In the temple, the flesh of the sacrifice is roasted and eaten – the blood is poured out. To share in the sacrificial meal by eating the roasted flesh is to become a participant in the sacrifice. The victim’s life is given to God and, in turn, becomes food returned from God to the giver. The mystery of life and death is at the very heart of sacrifice. Jesus’ teaching is hard. It involves self-giving – the self-giving of Jesus and it calls for our own self-giving. When we know and appreciate that we are freely gifted by God, we are more open to sharing. We are called to remain in Jesus. By eating of his very person (flesh and blood), we can become Jesus, the Body of Christ, a nourishment that is the indwelling of divine life – eternal life.  (Living Liturgy, 2003, 192)

 

From John Pilch, “Historical Cultural Context” http://liturgy.slu.edu :

Literally drinking blood (and eating human flesh) was prohibited in Judaism and perhaps early Christianity. Yet, “eating Jesus’ flesh and drinking his blood” became a common way for Christians around the time of John’s Gospel to describe participation in the Eucharist. It is believed that such language served to emphasize the intimacy, the close relationship of Jesus to those who trust him and ‘feed’ on his words and the bread and wine of his table. The Father’s life was and is in Jesus – and so too all believers who share this intimate relationship that is the Eucharist. John’s gospel seems to be viewing the Eucharist not so much as a memorial of Jesus’ death or his many meals with others. Rather, Eucharist is a liturgical extension of Jesus incarnation. The divine/human life of the Risen Lord becomes one with us so we can now be his body and blood in this world today. Maybe that is why John puts this bread of life discourse right in the middle of Jesus’ life and ministry – not at the Last Supper before his death.

 

From https://www.circleofhope.net/blog/bake-bread-follow-jesus/:

This author compares making bread to following Jesus:

  1. Catch the Spirit (or the yeast):  The air caused by the yeast itself contains everything you need to add to your bread to transform it from water and flour into something great. It takes time, feeding, and attention for this to happen, but soon you’ll have caught something amazing. The same is true for our spiritual lives—we need to catch the Spirit and a big part of that is just an open posture. Be available for the Spirit, not stubborn or resolute. We don’t know which way the Spirit chooses to blow.
  2. Make sure you have enough (like sugar or honey) to foster growth:  The bread needs to have some food to grow and develop flavor. It isn’t enough to catch some passion, we have to keep our passion fed.
  3. Get engaged (or knead) in some action:  The doing part of the church is important to being a follow of Jesus. That’s what kneading bread does, too. It agitates the gluten and gets it to create some structure. Not enough kneading and the bread won’t proof, and the crumb won’t be chewy like a nice piece of bread should be.
  4. Rest:  You’re hard to handle without rest. But the resting period also develops depth, both in bread and in Spirit.
  5. Stay alert, but be patient:  Wait, rest, proof. Be filled up with the Spirit and anticipate the right time to act. Be ready, not rushed.  Time, attention and patience.
  6. Get into the oven and be transformed:  At the right time, slide your bread into the oven and watch it transform from a raw, inedible piece of dough into something that is just good to eat. Transformed Christians are visibly different, and usually people notice. They are light but deep. They have substance but aren’t too difficult. They are just like good bread, with its rustic crust and chewy crumb.

Eucharist: Part 2

The 2nd of Fr. Bob’s homily series…

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18th Sunday in Ordinary Time B
This is the second of our series on the Eucharist as we dive deeply into the sixth chapter of John. Last week we talked of our hungers and the bold proposition that in the gift of the Eucharist, Jesus has given us something that can satisfy those hungers and answer all our needs. Today, let’s look at two of the most prominent hungers in our life – our hunger to belong and our need to know we are beautiful.
They go closely together because both hungers are deeply connected to our security or more accurately, our insecurities. Belonging calms our great fear of being alone, of suffering isolation and not connecting with others. We need people we can identify as our own, a safe place. And we are always searching to know that we are beautiful, that we matter and thought of as precious.

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Eucharist: Part One

1st of Fr. Bob’s Eucharist Homily Series

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17th Sunday of Ordinary Time B
This is an exciting day. This will be the first of a four part homily series on the Eucharist. It will not be so much a test of my theology, but of your endurance. The truth is though that I cannot imagine devoting so much time to any subject other than the Eucharist. It is at the center of our life and the center of the life of the church. As a matter of fact, it is primary to the Church. The Church does make the Eucharist as much as the Eucharist makes the Church. It has always been central to my life. When I was discerning priesthood, my wise friend Alissa gave me a book from the German poet Rainer Marie Rilke and he wrote, “Think of what you would die for and then live for it.” Eucharist was my immediate answer. For…

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